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Peer Review

Mark Twain in His Times



Overall Numeric Rating:

4.75 stars
Content Quality: 5 stars
Effectiveness: 5 stars
Ease of Use: 4.5 stars
Reviewed: Jan 20, 2007 by History Editorial Board
Overview: Part electronic text, part digital archive, this site includes many primary documents, photographs and even audio files relating to Mark Twain and his life. It also includes a game that allows the player to learn about Twain in a painless way. The site draws from the resources of teh Barrett Collection at the University of Virginia Library.
Type of Material: An archival/reference site with primary documents, digitized texts and photographs and an internet game.
Recommended Uses: It can easily be used as a wonderful supplent to study of the gilded age and 19th century marketing as it shows the way Twain promoted his books. Of course, it can also be used to study the culture of the gilded age and to supplement a course on United States History or Literature.
Technical Requirements: None.
Identify Major Learning Goals: To allow users to learn what Twain's contemporaries said about his works held in the Barrett Collection. To acquaint users with Twain's thoughts on his own works. To place Twain within the context of the 19th and early 20th century in United States History. The enables the user to learn about Mark Twain as author, showman, entrepeneur, and celebrity to determine his place in literature and history.
Target Student Population: College and high school, some middle school.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: A knowledge of United States History during the period of Samuel L. Clemens. Some computer skills.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: This is an excellent collection of texts, manuscripts, contemporary reviews and articles, images, and interactive exhibits on many of Twain's novels. For each Twain novel discussed the user is able to access Selected Sources and Pre-Texts,Selected Letters, the books Sales Prospectus, contemporary advertisements and publicity, contemporary reviews, browse chapters of each book, look at selected illustrations, and learn how Twain felt about each of his novels. This site provides for an excellent immersion into the period and into each novel selected for use. There is an index of all texts used and a good bibliography. The great strength of this site is its versatility for student and teacher use at a variety of educational levels. It provides insights into both the history and culture of the 19th and early 20th century.
Concerns: Instructors should provide specific instructions on what to use from the site. The amount of material is excellent but can be overwhelming.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 5 stars
Strengths: The site has a wide range of uses depending on the instructor's course goals. The site lends itself to much instructional creativity. One significant advantage is the site's inclusion of student projects which could be adapted for classroom use. Should a user want to do this, he/she must read the Conditions of Use posted on the site. I liked the fact that users become acquainted with many of Twain's contemporaries such as William Dean Howells, George Washington Cable, Andrew Carnegie, Kate Douglas Riggs, Agnes repplier, Irving Bacheller, Carolyn Wells, and Richard Watson Matthews. The Mark Twain history game should be played in class to give students an introduction to the life and times of Mark Twain. The game's sense of humor should hold student interest.
Concerns: None.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4.5 stars
Strengths: Generally works well.
Concerns: Some items appear more slowly depending on the speed on the user's internet server.

Other Issues and Comments: The special sections on Twain's Most Profitable Book, why he wore a white suit, Reports of His Death,and how Twain marketed himself are well done and the marketing section is really excellent. The site is valuable to faculty who are popular culturists.